The Pittsburgh Steelers have become synonymous with great defense in recent years and now have the highest-paid defense in the NFL. However, the Steelers’ defensive unit did take a step back in 2021.
That includes a horrific showing in the Wild Card Round against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. After holding the Chiefs scoreless in the first quarter and even taking a 7-0 lead in the second, Pittsburgh then allowed 35 unanswered points before ultimately suffering a 42-21 loss. Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five scores.
Newly extended Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick certainly isn’t forgetting that game. At his press conference for his historic new contract, Fitzpatrick talked about how he and the Pittsburgh defense are motivated by the “embarrassment” of that performance:
Cam Heyward is here, too, watching Minkah Fitzpatrick's presser in-person. Fitzpatrick talked about the Steelers now having the highest-paid defense in the NFL and how that raises the standard for them to play "A++" after "an embarrassment" of a playoff loss to to the Chiefs.
— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2022
That game was certainly a rough way for the Steelers to go out last season, especially considering it was Ben Roethlisberger’s last game. Despite having high-profile players like Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Joe Haden, among others, Pittsburgh got trounced by Mahomes and Co.
The Steelers have a lot of money invested in defense after big extensions for Fitzpatrick, Watt and Heyward in recent years. They also brought in Myles Jack to bolster the unit. The expectations will be high for this Pittsburgh defense, which very well may need to carry the team because of the questions at quarterback.
The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett this offseason, and it remains to be seen who winds up winning that job. Trubisky is currently on top of the depth chart, but that could always change. Either way, Pittsburgh’s defense must be up to the challenge and perform to the standards set with all this money involved on that side of the football.